UPDATED FINDINGS ON PETTY OFFENCES VIOLATIONS IN NIGERIA
Vulnerable and poor citizens whether in Nigeria or across the world are the population that suffers most human rights abuses associated with petty offences. As the hashtag to the global campaign to decriminalize petty offences goes, #povertyisnotanoffence. In Nigeria today, 70% of those awaiting trials in our correctional centres are persons accused of petty offences.
Petty Offences are offences other than felonies or misdemeanours that targets the poor in any society. Petty offences are said to “wear the face of Poverty”. Examples of petty offences include hawking, loitering, alms-seeking, etc. As earlier stated the Nigerian Correctional Centers and other detention Centers are today largely populated by these offences with by Petty Offences-awaiting-trial inmates, with huge resources expended by the state for their prosecution. The African Court Advisory Judgement declared petty offences as unconstitutional and urged African governments to decriminalize and remove them from statute books.
Notwithstanding the above, there is the paucity of scientific data to effectively carry out advocacy for the decriminalization of petty offences. This is the gap this report seeks to fill. Lawyers Alert in the last 2 years has been monitoring and documenting human rights violations associated with petty offences in Nigeria. This updated report is a compendium of reported petty offences violations between April 2021 – September 2021. The data used in this report is drawn from inputs made into Lawyers Alert Documentation Tool (LadockT).
In validation of the allegation of tightening of the civic space in Nigeria, Disobedience to Constituted Authorities ranked highest amongst other petty offences at 37%, even though it reflects a decline as against the past report of 43%. As in the past report, Wandering/Loitering ranked second. With regards to States with the highest violations, as in the last report covering the period April 2020 – September 2020, Lagos State ranked highest at 29% and the Federal Capital Territory at coming second at 20%. At the LGA level, Abuja Municipal ranked highest at 13% and Lagos Island second at 12%.
Data of violations is obtained from our partners working within communities across the country and fed into our Online Tool for automatic analysis to evidence types, age, location, sex and trends. The data is therefore tested and the integrity is hereby assured. Interventions for petty offences can be better informed than when situated against scientific data as evidenced in this report.
This report validates the need for the decriminalization of petty offences in Nigeria and it is the belief of Lawyers Alert that these scientific findings will
hasten legislators resolve at the federal and state level in decriminalizing these offences.
Lawyers Alert acknowledges the support and partnership of Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). We are indebted to several individuals and organizations who referred cases to us which was a huge resource in terms of efforts at populating the Tool.
President, Lawyers Alert.